“We received your memo earlier in the week,” said Mr. Little. “And of course Mr. Templemeyer has discussed the matter with us as well. The work of the FBI up to this stage has been quite impressive. No doubt you have pursued all available leads; I’m not sure if there is much we have to offer, but if we can be of any assistance at all…”
Nobody was willing to take the lead. Before Little and his companions had arrived Agnes had claimed that the NSA called the meeting. Now Little was implying that somebody at the FBI called the meeting, as I had suspected.
“Please have a seat,” Agnes said as she gestured to the row of chairs lined up in front of her desk.
Little remained standing. “This is Lorenzo Thomas,” he said. “He is our leading expert on DES. Based upon the content of your memo, I thought we might want his consultation in this meeting.” Little had to look up to the man beside him as he said this. “Lorenzo is a leader in the field. He has a PhD from MIT, was instrumental in the original work on DES, and more recently has contributed to Clipper and Skipjack. Don’t hold that last part against him!” Little looked in Lisa’s direction as he said this, apparently having already guessed that she was not FBI. Lisa responded with a polite smile but said nothing. Agnes was not as amused. She motioned in Jonny’s direction.
“This is James Carter. He is a case officer with the FBI. He specializes in cases of electronic crime. And, of course, the FBI in general is quite experienced in cases of banking crimes,” she reminded Little.
Jonny nodded to both Little and Dr. Thomas and said, “Please call me Jonny.”
Next was my turn. Agnes gestured toward me and said, “Carl Raymond has been kind enough to join us today. He is in part responsible for this mess. You see Carl took it upon himself to explore the EFT network. In so doing he facilitated the crimes we are investigating. His methods are illegal, but he has been cooperating with us recently.”
OK, this wasn’t the kindest of introductions, but I have to concede that it is accurate. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Should I apologize after an introduction like that? Before I could say anything Agnes continued with her introductions.
“This is Lisa Cryer. She is an ordinary bank customer that was victimized by Mr. Raymond’s actions.”
Lisa was not as taken aback as I was by Agnes’ cool remarks.
“Hello Mr. Little, Dr. Thomas,” she said sweetly, extending her hand toward Mr. Little. As she shook hands with the two of them she said, “I think you will find that Carl has been quite instrumental in the investigation.”
“Tell me about it,” Little asked her pleasantly. He settled down into the seat Agnes had indicated earlier. Dr. Thomas and Mr. Templemeyer did the same. I stepped back a couple of steps and leaned against the window sill. As I sat listening to Lisa’s explanation I tried to read Agnes’ expression. She had introduced Lisa as an innocent bystander and yet it was Lisa that Little had turned to for a briefing. Agnes is a woman that is not accustomed to anything less than full control. Outwardly she remained neutral. She sat with her elbows on the arms of her chair and her hands pressed together in a steeple point under her nose as she listened to Lisa’s explanation.
“What can we do to help?” Little asked after Lisa had finished her lengthy narrative. “All of you have done impressive work. All that seems to remain to be done is identify the culprit — the `millwright’ as you folks refer to him.
“I brought Lorenzo with me because of his knowledge of DES and MAC’s, but now I am wondering if the NSA can help in a different capacity.
“My initial guess is that we are dealing with a protocol attack here and not a cryptanalytic attack on the MAC’s themselves. It certainly would not surprise me. Cryptographic failures are usually at the protocol level and not in the underlying algorithms. In fact, we at the NSA joke that all the fuss over export restrictions is a moot point because it does not matter how strong the encryption algorithms are that people are exporting if they are using those algorithms in weak protocols. Of course, the NSA is the main proponent of export restrictions so we are laughing at ourselves when we say this.